Tenet Review

What time is it?

It’s an often asked question that usually elicits a clear and simple answer. Not in Christopher Nolan’s movies. The answers in his movies are complicated, often maddening, and frequently grandly entertaining. We’ve seen it in Memento, Inception, and Interstellar with the latter being a mixed bag and the first two being pretty great. His latest is Tenet and it definitely falls more into the maddening territory with big and loud moments of thrills. You may wish you had a physics degree during it, but this is mostly an excuse for Nolan to play in the super spy genre with a bunch of quantum related gobbledygook thrown in. The director’s most ardent admirers may study it endlessly for Easter eggs and clues as to its true meaning. Upon first watch, I’m not so sure Tenet is worth the scrutiny. Yet there’s some car chases and battle scenes played to Nigel Tufnel levels of volume that land pleasingly on screens big and small. Weird science and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of action set pieces… this is Nolan’s rap and he frequently goes to eleven in this one.

John David Washington is (rather annoyingly) known only as The Protagonist. Let’s call him “Pro” for the duration of this review. A government agent who proves his bonafides to his superiors, he’s allowed into a secret organization known as the picture’s title. Pro’s new assignment tasks him with preventing something “worse” than nuclear holocaust in one example of some clunky dialogue. This is where the physics lessons are useful. You see, Russian oligarch Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) is hellbent on destroying the past and future through the concept of “inversion”. Essentially this means playing with time travel concepts that can wipe out what occurred before or after. I’m not sure Doc Brown could properly provide sufficient exposition without multiple viewings and neither can Pro or his partner Neil (Robert Pattinson). You may want to look up “temporal pincer movements” before you watch.

In addition to Pro’s teaming with Neil, his mission to stop Sator also involves the villain’s estranged wife Kat (Elizabeth Debicki). She’s quite good here and she’s really the only heroic figure that’s written with any layers. Washington and Pattinson are just fine, though their characters are quite dull on the page and screen. For Branagh, this is his chance to ham it up in true Bond baddie style and he relishes it. We have also get a bit of Michael Caine (common for a Nolan experience) and internationally known Hindi actress Dimple Kapadia as an arms trafficker.

Tenet does feature the aforementioned action set pieces that are impressive in scope and tech wizardry. The director doesn’t handle these sequences with half measures. If the scene calls for a 747 to be demolished, you best believe that plane was actually destroyed. The inversion concept lends to eye candy moments with backwards cars screeching on the highway and seagulls (!) even flying in reverse.

Very early on, a scientist is explaining the science behind Tenet to Pro with the following dialogue: “Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.” I wrote that piece of advice down immediately. I had a notion these words might aptly describe the next two hours plus. And they do. I certainly felt the decibel levels of Nolan and his crew choreographing expensive battles. They take place all over the globe in Norway, Italy, and Siberia. I did not, on the other hand, feel too invested in the complicated narrative mechanics that cause them. In fact, I wrote down something else I didn’t expect to while watching – “Austin Powers”. In that super spy’s second outing, The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin attempts to understand the highly confusing time travel plot in a conversation with his colleague Basil. After twisting his brain into a knot discussing it, Basil smartly replies “I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.” He then turns to the camera and says to us – “That goes for all of you, too.” It’s a funnier way of asking us to feel it whether we understand it or not. That request succeeds only intermittently with Tenet.

**1/2 (out of four)

Tenet Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (09/02): On the eve of its premiere, I am upping my estimate from $31.9 million to $36.9 million. Those adjustments are reflected in the numbers below.

Let’s start here – Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is maybe the most challenging box office prediction I’ve ever had to write. This is, of course, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet this isn’t the only reason.

After a series of coronavirus related delays that altered its planned July premiere, the epic spy thriller is set for an extended Labor Day weekend premiere. It marks the latest mega budget (north of $200 million) feature from one of the few directors whose name is the main attraction. The recognizable actors in front of the camera include John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is out tomorrow (August 26) in numerous territories including Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. The international rollout could provide clues as to how it will perform stateside. That occurs on Thursday, September 3rd and runs through the holiday weekend. Speaking of Labor Day, this is traditionally considered a slow weekend at the box office as the summer season draws to a close. Like everything else this year, 2020 is far different.

While Unhinged and this weekend’s The New Mutants are the first two wide releases post COVID, Tenet is by far the most eagerly awaited and high profile. There was never any doubt that this would open theatrically and on some IMAX venues. The VOD route was never explored. While a screen count is not yet available, I’m currently assuming it’ll be around 2500. If that changes, my prediction might too.

Reviews are mostly solid with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82%. That said, some critical reaction is a bit on the mixed side. Unlike 2017’s Dunkirk, this follow-up is not generating immediate awards buzz. As mentioned, Nolan is a bankable commodity with or without Oscar chatter. You have to go back to 2006’s The Prestige to find the last entry in his filmography to gross under $100 million domestically. Both Dunkirk and its predecessor Interstellar grossed close to $200 million overall in the States. His Batman trilogy and Inception all took in north of $200 million or far more.

So where does that leaves us? Looking at Interstellar and Dunkirk, both titles achieved per theater averages of just over $13,000 for respective starts of $47 million and $50 million. The difference is that Interstellar began on 3500+ plus screens and Dunkirk at 3700+.

Due to the lower availability of venues (especially in major markets like NYC and LA) and the ongoing uncertainty of major audience turnout, giving Tenet a $10,000 per screen average would equate to around $25 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday portion of its five-day start. I’m choosing to ratchet that up to $25.7 million. Adding Thursday and Labor Day in, I’ll kick in another $11.2 million.

Let’s end here – I am still in severe guesstimating mode and Tenet is undoubtedly the first giant test case in this new cinematic reality. Over the next few days, it’s certainly feasible that I will update this estimate. We shall see, but here’s where I stand as of now.

Tenet opening weekend prediction (Thursday, September 3-Monday, September 7): $36.9 million

Oscar Watch: Tenet

If there’s something that could be called a breathlessly awaited review embargo, it lapsed today with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The filmmaker’s latest time bending thriller is out in various foreign territories over the next few days with a launch (in somewhat limited fashion) planned for the United States during Labor Day weekend.

Tenet was already one of the year’s most anticipated titles as Nolan is one of the few directors that can guarantee an audience and potential awards attention. It was originally planned for a mid July global launch before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the strategy. The pic is being rightfully looked at as the first major test for theaters post COVID.

So what’s the verdict? Tenet, with just over 30 reviews in, stands at a solid 88% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, that number doesn’t tell the whole story. While some critics are hailing it as another visionary work from Nolan, there are others more measured and middle of the road in their write-ups. There is some negativity peppered in.

When Dunkirk was released three years ago, the WWII epic was an immediate Oscar contender and it ended up with 8 nominations. Same goes for Nolan’s 2010 summer smash Inception as it also scored 8 nods. With Tenet, my gut feeling based on early reaction is that it’s far from a shoo-in for the biggest categories.

In that sense, this could more closely follow the trajectory of 2014’s Interstellar. That Matthew McConaughey space tearjerker wound up with 4 nominations: Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, the two Sound races, and Production Design. Tenet could certainly be a player in those categories (Zimmer is scoring here too). Additionally, Visual Effects and Cinematography are definite possibilities.

However, Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay appear far more questionable. As for the cast, it’s worth noting that only one performance in any Nolan feature has been nominated. That would, of course, be Heath Ledger’s Supporting Actor win for the The Dark Knight in 2008. Critical reaction doesn’t indicate that the cast of John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh are likely to be in the mix.

Bottom line: Tenet did not establish itself as an immediate player in the top of the line races today, though technical nods seem assured. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Mickey Mouse Blinks

Today marked even more release shifting in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and it’s a lot of news of Disney. The Mouse Factory, to no one’s surprise, has moved their live-action remake of Mulan from August 21st to that date we’re all growing accustomed to… (say it together now) TBD.

That’s not all. Two of the studio’s biggest franchises saw their anticipated sequels, spin-offs, and reboots pushed back one year. The as yet untitled next episodes of Star Wars will not begin until December 2023 (with follow-up pics now slated for 2025 and 2027).

James Cameron’s four (yes, four) sequels to Avatar are delayed yet again. Part two is now pegged for December 2022 with parts 3, 4, and 5 now planned for December 2024, 2026, and 2028.

And… that’s not all. Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile (his follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express) has been pushed back two weeks from October 9th to October 23rd of this year (we’ll see it that holds). Mr. Branagh has already seen a COVID change a few weeks back when his critically reviled Artemis Fowl scrapped its theatrical bow in favor of a Disney+ debut.

Some other developments: Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel changed from Christmas 2020 to October 2021. Wes Anderson’s eagerly awaited (and potential Oscar contender) The French Dispatch saw its October 2020 premiere altered to… (say it again) TBD.

This follows the announcement from Warner Bros. earlier this week that Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (long seen as the first real COVID test for theaters) is now a TBD property after its hoped for August rollout. After the Tenet news, the ball was passed to Mulan. Not anymore.

Now the paradigm shifts again… to Disney. One could say that the MCU’s Black Widow is now the first massive blockbuster scheduled to debut on November 6th. Let’s see if it stays that way in our new cinematic universe.

Knives Out Movie Review

Whodunits aren’t an omnipresent genre on the silver screen these days and rare recent ones like Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express have had a bit of an unnecessary regurgitated vibe to it. Not so with Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, which displays  the writer/director’s enthusiasm for playing in this murderous sandbox to satisfactory effect. Like the 1974 version of Orient Express, we have a 007 involved. 45 years ago, it was Sean Connery and now it’s Daniel Craig. There’s a Marvel superhero (Chris Evans) playing decidedly against type. A captain of the American crime novel industry meets his demise in a stately manner that’s a triumph of production design. Craig and Evans are having a good time here, as is the rest of the cast. Some get better opportunities to shine than others. One of the standouts even has her crowd pleasing moments that involves regurgitation.

The Thrombey family is celebrating the 85th birthday of their patriarch Harlan (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy novelist who won’t allow his capers to be adapted into films or TV specials. This is a source of frustration for son Walt (Michael Shannon), who cares for his publishing empire. The family drama doesn’t stop there. Harlan is prepared to expose family secrets or cut off the gravy train for eldest daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her philandering husband (Don Johnson) and daughter-in-law and would-be life coaching guru Joni (Toni Collette). Evans is the black sheep grandson in a clan where that’s saying something. Everyone has a reason to get rid of Harlan. His most healthy relationship is with a non-family member – caretaker Marta (Ana de Armas). She’s from another country and it could be Brazil or Ecuador and one ending with “guay”. Don’t ask the Thrombeys as they express an admiration for her, but hilariously have no clue where she came from. This is all part of Johnson’s integration of the immigration debate into a screenplay that manages to occasionally weave current events into the foul play happenings.

That foul play means Harlan’s celebration is short-lived. Enter private detective Benoit Blanc as played by Craig and his work is a far cry from James Bond. Adopting a thick Southern drawl and a patient attitude to finding the killer, Blanc nevertheless seems a step ahead of the other policemen investigating. They want to believe Harlan might have committed suicide as the evidence suggests. Yet no whodunit script could make it that simple, could it?

Knives Out clues the audience in on some revelations before they enter Blanc’s consciousness from time to time. Johnson probably could have held some back for stronger pacing results. And some of the performers never quite have the running time to develop their roles. These turn out to be minor criticisms in the grand scheme. De Armas and Evans form the yin and yang of the case and are afforded the most clock time in the game along with Craig. The frequent twists and turns experienced are a hoot as we anticipate what Johnson will throw up on the screen next.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Knives Out

Good old fashioned whodunnits are rare on the silver screen, but Rian Johnson has one on deck with Knives Out. It’s premiered in Toronto and early reaction indicates a major crowd favorite that has killer box office potential. The Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi maker has apparently fashioned a laugh out loud comedy that makes fine use of its all-star cast led by Daniel Craig. We also have Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer onboard.

So when it comes to this genre, will Knives follow in the path of Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (multiple nominations) or Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express (nada). The likelihood is that nods in the major categories could be elusive even if it strikes a chord with crowds. The best hope could be with Johnson’s original screenplay or supporting turns that have been singled out, like Evans and especially de Armas.

The better bet is a nomination for Production Design, which has been praised in every write up I’ve scanned. Bottom line: Knives Out has announced itself as a probable hit and there’s at least a chance that Academy voters could notice. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: All Is True

A couple of months back, All Is True was announced as a surprise addition to the awards season calendar. At the time, it seemed like a legitimate contender. The tale of William Shakespeare in his later years comes from director Kenneth Branagh, who is no stranger to the Bard. His 1989 version of Henry V and 1996 Hamlet rendering both received Oscar nods, while Much Ado About Nothing and Othello (both from the mid 90s) did not. The filmmaker plays Shakespeare with a supporting cast including Judi Dench and Ian McKellen.

True is out in limited release today and a funny thing happened over the past few weeks. The picture received zero attention in precursors and the review embargo lifted just today. The result? Mixed critical reaction with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 57%.

Bottom line: I don’t expect this to garner any nominations come Oscar time as its fortunes clearly dwindled. And that, ladies and gentlemen, looks to be my final Oscar Watch post of 2018! My weekly predictions will be posted every Thursday up until the nominees are revealed. And as for what comes in 2019 – my Oscar Watch posts will continue…

2018 Weekly Oscar Predictions: November 1st Edition

My first Oscar predictions in the month of November come with reductions and expansions. I am slimming the list of 25 Best Picture possibilities to 15 and the other major categories from 15 to 10. As you can see, I am also including all of the other feature-length races for the first time from Documentary to Animated Feature to Foreign Language Feature and the techs.

So what are the developments worth discussing? Well…

  • In these initial projections for all races, A Star Is Born and First Man tie for most nominations with 12 apiece. Truth be told, I’m skeptical that First Man will get there. Its poor box office performance could hinder its possibilities in some races. While I’m relatively confident it will score multiples nods in the technical categories, both director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling are questionable, even though I currently have them both getting honored.
  • In Best Picture, BlacKkKlansman rises from 6th to 4th in the list of predicted nominees. It’s a good week in general for the Spike Lee pic as I’m including Adam Driver for the first time in the list of predicted Supporting Actor nominees, replacing Sam Rockwell in Vice.
  • We got a surprise announcement this week as Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True will open in late December for a qualifying run. The director stars as William Shakespeare in the late stages of his life with a supporting cast including Judi Dench and Ian McKellen. I will likely wait for some buzz before possibly listing it as a predicted nominee. In addition to Picture, Director, acting slots, and screenplay – it has the potential in down the line races such as Costume Design and Production Design. It will certainly be one to keep an eye on.
  • For Foreign Language Feature, Roma is tops in my first predictions while it maintains its #2 spot in Best Picture. Pixar finds itself in familiar territory with Incredibles 2 leading Animated Feature. In what should be a competitive Documentary Feature race, Free Solo starts out at #1 with Three Identical Strangers close behind.

And with that, here’s what November brings as far as Oscar predictions!

Best Picture

1. A Star Is Born (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Roma (PR: 2)

3. The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 6)

5. Green Book (PR: 4)

6. First Man (PR: 5)

7. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 7)

8. Black Panther (PR: 8)

9. Vice (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities:

10. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 11)

11. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 13)

12. Widows (PR: 10)

13. The Mule (PR: 12)

14. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 15)

15. Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

A Quiet Place

Eighth Grade

Boy Erased

Leave No Trace

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Mary Poppins Returns

The Hate U Give

Cold War

Ben Is Back

Hereditary

Best Director

1. Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (PR: 1)

2. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 4)

4. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite (PR: 3)

5. Damien Chazelle, First Man (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 6)

7. Peter Farrelly, Green Book (PR: 7)

8. Ryan Coogler, Black Panther (PR: 9)

9. Adam McKay, Vice (PR: 8)

10. Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Steve McQueen, Widows

Clint Eastwood, The Mule

Josie Rourke, Mary Queen of Scots

John Krasinski, A Quiet Place

Jon M. Chu, Crazy Rich Asians

Best Actor

1. Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (PR: 1)

2. Christian Bale, Vice (PR: 2)

3. Viggo Mortensen, Green Book (PR: 3)

4. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate (PR: 5)

5. Ryan Gosling, First Man (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities:

6. Robert Redford, The Old Man & The Gun (PR: 8)

7. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (PR: 6)

8. Clint Eastwood, The Mule (PR: 7)

9. Hugh Jackman, The Front Runner (PR: 9)

10. Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Lucas Hedges, Ben Is Back

Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Ben Foster, Leave No Trace

John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

John C. Reilly, Stan and Ollie

Best Actress

1. Glenn Close, The Wife (PR: 1)

2. Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. Olivia Colman, The Favourite (PR: 3)

4. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

5. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Viola Davis, Widows (PR: 6)

7. Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex (PR: 8)

8. Nicole Kidman, Destroyer (PR: 10)

9. Julia Roberts, Ben Is Back (PR: 7)

10. Saoirse Ronan, Mary Queen of Scots (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Toni Collette, Hereditary

Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns 

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Kindergarten Teacher

Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk

Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Best Supporting Actor

1. Mahershala Ali, Green Book (PR: 1)

2. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

3. Timothee Chalamet, Beautiful Boy (PR: 3)

4. Sam Elliot, A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

5. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman (PR: 7)

Other Possibilities:

6. Sam Rockwell, Vice (PR: 5)

7. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther (PR: 8)

8. Daniel Kaluuya, Widows (PR: 6)

9. Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give (PR: 14)

10. Robert Forster, What They Had (PR: 9)

Dropped Out:

Steve Carell, Vice

Armie Hammer, On the Basis of Sex

Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite 

Russell Crowe, Boy Erased

Tim Blake Nelson, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Best Supporting Actress

1. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 1)

2. Emma Stone, The Favourite (PR: 2)

3. Rachel Weisz, The Favourite (PR: 4)

4. Claire Foy, First Man (PR: 3)

5. Amy Adams, Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Marina de Tavira, Roma (PR: 7)

7. Natalie Portman, Vox Lux (PR: 6)

8. Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased (PR: 8)

9. Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 9)

10. Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots 

Rachel McAdams, Disobedience

Sissy Spacek, The Old Man & The Gun

Kathy Bates, On the Basis of Sex

Dianne Wiest, The Mule

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. BlacKkKlansman (PR: 1)

2. A Star Is Born (PR: 2)

3. If Beale Street Could Talk (PR: 3)

4. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (PR: 4)

5. First Man (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Widows (PR: 7)

7. Crazy Rich Asians (PR: 6)

8. The Hate U Give (PR: 11)

9. Leave No Trace (PR: 8)

10. Black Panther (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Mary Queen of Scots

Boy Erased

Disobedience

The Sisters Brothers

The Wife

Best Original Screenplay

1. Roma (PR: 1)

2. The Favourite (PR: 2)

3. Green Book (PR: 3)

4. Eighth Grade (PR: 4)

5. Vice (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. On the Basis of Sex (PR: 10)

7. First Reformed (PR: 6)

8. A Quiet Place (PR: 9)

9. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (PR: 7)

10. The Mule (PR: 8)

Dropped Out:

Ben Is Back

Private Life

Hereditary

Stan and Ollie

Sorry to Bother You

Best Foreign Language Film

1. Roma

2. Cold War

3. Shoplifters

4. Girl

5. Capernaum

Other Possibilities:

6. Burning

7. Birds of Passage

8. The Guilty

9. Never Look Away

10. Border

Best Animated Feature

1. Incredibles 2

2. Isle of Dogs

3. Ralph Breaks the Internet

4. Mirai

5. Ruben Brandt, Collector

Other Possibilities:

6. Lu Over the Wall

7. Early Man

8. Night is Short, Walk on Girl

9. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

10. Smallfoot

Best Documentary Feature

1. Free Solo

2. Three Identical Strangers

3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

4. RBG

5. Science Fair

Other Possibilities:

6. Minding the Gap

7. Dark Money

8. Crime + Punishment

9. The Price of Everything

10. Quincy

Best Film Editing

1. A Star Is Born

2. Roma

3. First Man

4. The Favourite

5. Vice

Other Possibilities:

6. Widows

7. If Beale Street Could Talk

8. Black Panther

9. BlacKkKlansman

10. July 22

Best Cinematography

1. Roma

2. First Man

3. A Star Is Born

4. If Beale Street Could Talk

5. Cold War

Other Possibilities:

6. The Favourite

7. Black Panther

8. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

9. Widows

10. Mary Queen of Scots

Best Production Design

1. The Favourite

2. Black Panther

3. First Man

4. Mary Poppins Returns

5. Mary Queen of Scots

Other Possibilities:

6. A Star Is Born

7. Roma

8. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

9. Colette

10. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Best Costume Design

1. The Favourite

2. Black Panther

3. Mary Queen of Scots

4. Colette

5. Mary Poppins Returns

Other Possibilities:

6. Crazy Rich Asians

7. A Star Is Born

8. If Beale Street Could Talk

9. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

10. A Wrinkle in Time

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

1. Black Panther

2. Mary Queen of Scots

3. The Favourite

Other Possibilities:

4. Stan and Ollie

5. Vice

6. Mary Poppins Returns

7. A Star Is Born

8. Suspiria

9. Colette

10. A Wrinkle in Time

Best Sound Editing

1. First Man

2. Black Panther

3. A Quiet Place

4. A Star Is Born

5. Incredibles 2

Other Possibilities:

6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

7. Avengers: Infinity War

8. Roma

9. Mary Poppins Returns

10. Annihilation

Best Sound Mixing

1. First Man

2. A Star Is Born

3. A Quiet Place

4. Black Panther

5. Mary Poppins Returns

Other Possibilities:

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

7. Roma

8. Incredibles 2

9. Avengers: Infinity War

10. Ready Player One

Best Visual Effects

1. First Man

2. Avengers: Infinity War

3. Black Panther

4. Ready Player One

5. Annihilation

Other Possibilities

6. Mary Poppins Returns

7. A Quiet Place

8. A Wrinkle in Time

9. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

10. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Best Original Score

1. First Man

2. If Beale Street Could Talk

3. BlacKkKlansman

4. Roma

5. Green Book

Other Possibilities:

6. Mary Queen of Scots

7. Incredibles 2

8. Colette

9. Suspiria

10. The Sisters Brothers

Best Original Song

1. “Shallow” from A Star Is Born

2. “All the Stars” from Black Panther

3. “I’ll Never Love Again” from A Star Is Born

4. “The Place Where Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns

5. “We Won’t Move” from The Hate U Give

Other Possibilities:

6. “Time for Change” from On the Basis of Sex

7. “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star Is Born

8. “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” from Mary Poppins Returns

9. “I’ll Fight” from RBG

10. “Hearts Beat Loud” from Hearts Beat Loud

And that breaks down to the following number of nominations for each feature:

12 Nominations

A Star Is Born, First Man

10 Nominations

The Favourite

8 Nominations

Black Panther, Roma

5 Nominations

BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice

3 Nominations

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Poppins Returns

2 Nominations

A Quiet Place, Cold War, Incredibles 2

1 Nomination

Annihilation, At Eternity’s Gate, Avengers: Infinity War, Beautiful Boy, Colette, Eighth Grade, Ready Player One, The Hate U Give, The Wife, Capernaum, Free Solo, Girl, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, RBG, Ruben Brandt, Collector, Science Fair. Shoplifters, Three Identical Strangers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Best Supporting Actor: A Look Back

Continuing on with my look back at the major categories from 1990 to the present at the Oscars, we arrive at Best Supporting Actor! If you missed my post regarding Supporting Actress, you can find it right here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/20/best-supporting-actress-a-look-back/

As I did with that blog entry, I’m picking the top 3 least surprising winners (performers who essentially sailed right through awards season) and the 3 biggest upsets in each race. I am also selecting the strongest and weakest fields overall.

As a primer, here are the 28 actors whose support earned them a golden statue:

1990 – Joe Pesci, GoodFellas

1991 – Jack Palance, City Slickers

1992 – Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

1993 – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

1994 – Martin Landau, Ed Wood

1995 – Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects

1996 – Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire

1997 – Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting

1998 – James Coburn, Affliction

1999 – Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules

2000 – Benicio del Toro, Traffic

2001 – Jim Broadbent, Iris

2002 – Chris Cooper, Adaptation

2003 – Tim Robbins, Mystic River

2004 – Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

2005 – George Clooney, Syriana

2006 – Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

2007 – Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

2008 – Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

2009 – Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

2010 – Christian Bale, The Fighter

2011 – Christopher Plummer, Beginners

2012 – Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

2013 – Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

2014 – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

2015 – Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

2016 – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

2017 – Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

There are plenty to choose from as far least surprising winners, but here’s my top ones:

3. Gene Hackman, Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s Western picked up a slew of awards on Oscar night and Hackman’s inclusion in that race was never really in doubt. It was his second statue after winning Best Actor 21 years previously for The French Connection.

2. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

It was director Christopher Nolan giving numerous awards speeches on behalf of the late Ledger, as his work playing the iconic villain swept all precursors as well. This remains not only the only win in the omnipresent superhero genre in the 21st century, but the only nomination.

1. Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Like Ledger, Bardem created a bad guy for the ages in the Coen Brothers Oscar-winning picture. He picked up all the precursors as well for his role.

And now the upsets!

3. James Coburn, Affliction

There was clearly no front-runner in 1998 as a different actor was honored in each preceding awards show. Ed Harris took the Golden Globe for The Truman Show, Billy Bob Thornton (A Simple Plan) was victorious at the Critics Choice Awards, Robert Duvall’s role in A Civil Action was honored at SAG, and Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth) was the BAFTA recipient. Surely one of them would win the Oscar, but it instead went to Mr. Coburn.

2. Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

In 2015, the general consensus was that Sylvester Stallone would punch out the competition in his signature role for Creed. That would have been quite a feat after Rocky took Best Picture in 1976 – nearly four decades prior. Yet it didn’t materialize when Rylance made the trip to the podium.

1. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

Along the same lines, Eddie Murphy was the strong favorite for his rare dramatic work in Dreamgirls. With Jennifer Hudson as a sure thing for Supporting Actress (which did happen), the musical looked safe for a supporting sweep. The Academy surprisingly went another route by honoring Arkin.

And now to the fields overall and choosing a strongest and weakest. For the least impressive of the bunch, I’m going with 2011. Here were the nominees:

Christopher Plummer, Beginners (winner)

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

When it comes to best overall field, I chose 1993. This is the year that Tommy Lee Jones got the gold in The Fugitive. That’s a rare acting win for an action flick. It was deserved in my view and the other four nominees were very strong as well. They were:

Leonardo DiCaprio, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

Ralph Fiennes, Schindler’s List

John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire

Pete Postlethwaite, In the Name of the Father

Furthermore, I could keep going with other deserving actors that year, including Val Kilmer in Tombstone and Sean Penn for Carlito’s Way. 

The next trip down memory lane will be Best Actress and it will be up soon!

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

In his version of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh allows himself a part as big as his glorious mustache. The supporting players are often relegated to bits as small as the crumbs that might fall out of said mustache if his character didn’t maintain it so fastidiously.

That character is famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Don’t pronounce it Hercules or he will correct you in the exacting fashion he orders his eggs. That precision extends to his career. There’s right and wrong and nothing in between. Poirot’s worldview is challenged when he boards the Orient Express circa 1934, which happens to be the year Agatha Christie’s source material was penned.

Booking passage from stunning Istanbul to Paris, Poirot looks forward to a break from his work, but his powers of detection are utilized when a murder occurs. Nefarious character Ratchett (Johnny Depp) is stabbed multiple times during the night. Everyone onboard is a suspect and there’s about a dozen of them that Poirot must consider.

A lot of familiar faces are among the possibilities. There’s Michelle Pfeiffer’s flirty and dramatic Caroline. Daisy Ridley’s mysterious Mary and her connection with Leslie Odom Jr.’s Dr. Arbuthnot. Judi Dench’s domineering Princess Dragomiroff and her quiet assistant (Olivia Colman). Josh Gad is the victim’s right-hand man and Willem Dafoe is German professor Gerhard. Penelope Cruz is there as the faithful Pilar who hints at a more sinful past. And there’s more.

Yet even though Branagh has assembled a fine troupe of actors, this is the Poirot show. He dominates the running time with his outsized personality and facial hair. The character is introduced as a bit of a caricature but he becomes more sympathetic as the details of the murder and those who may have committed it are slowly revealed.

For those who’ve never read the book or seen any of the other filmed versions (the most notable being Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation with Albert Finney as Poirot in a considerably smaller ‘stache), Murder might keep you guessing. A lot of other audience members, I suspect, already know the outcome.

Branagh brings a visual style here that is grand and sweeping. There’s some complicated and impressive tracking and overhead shots to behold. We also have the train careening through the wilderness and into tunnels that often look a bit too digitized for my taste.

Truth be told, this Murder doesn’t add much fresh to Christie’s story. Viewers who are fans of the 1974 pic might deem this unnecessary. It’s still an often fascinating whodunnit with a talented director, albeit one who hogs the spotlight a bit. Poirot may eventually change his views by the closing credits and it mirrors my reaction. It doesn’t get it totally right or totally wrong. There’s an in between.

**1/2 (out of four)